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The Best Graphics Tablets

Updated on July 2, 2013

My Experience with Graphics Tablets

My journey to find the best graphics tablet. I am a Web / Graphics designer and for many years have endured with only a mouse to create various works of digital art, logos and illustration. For those of you who are familiar with software such as Photoshop, you will appreciate how frustrating it can be to to isolate imagery, create intricate selections or apply delicate brush strokes using a mouse.

Graphics Tablets had always been on my radar but for a long time I could not justify the expenditure and saw it as a luxury item; more of a time saver than a necessity. As my client base grew, it was time which was becoming my most valuable commodity so I decided to buy a WACOM Intuos4 medium graphics tablet.

I am not going to use this Lens to tell you why you need a graphics tablet because at the end of the day, there is nothing that cannot be produced on a tablet which a mouse could not emulate. Granted, it would take a lot longer and put your patience to the test but it can be done nevertheless. Anyone who tells you that you cannot create great work without a graphics tablet is either misinformed or trying to promote a sale. I have created this Lens to provide you with the information needed to make a decision; I spent along time researching tablets before choosing mine and would have found this extremely useful.

I hope this can be useful to you and wish you all the best on your design journey...

Welcome to the World of Wacom

Head and Shoulders above the Rest!

I have tried to remain impartial when producing this comparison but I also have a duty to provide you with the best information possible. The truth of the matter is that Wacom are the market leading manufacturers of graphics tablets and are head and shoulders above the rest of their competitors. I am not one for promoting the monopolisation of any given market but for me, Wacom are truly unrivaled.

What makes Wacom the best?

The Pen / Stylus

The Digital Pen or stylus provided with your Wacom tablet is revolutionary and ensures a great user experience. As the main interface with your tablet, the pen needs to be solid and successful design will be hinged on how you take to the pen. The list below outlines key features of the Wacom Digital Pen:

  • Cordless - No wires connecting the pen to the tablet allows for greater freedom for you to be creative
  • No batteries needed - Electromagnetic Resonance technology means that you do not need to keep replacing batteries. This is an absolute necessity in my opinion. Some of my projects have taken weeks and to keep replacing batteries would definitely create annoyance
  • Pressure Sensitivity - This is an amazing feature of the Wacom digital pen. The harder you push down, the stronger the mark. Almost exactly as if you were using real drawing materials this feature creates fantastic results. Standard issues of the pen contains 1024 sensitivity levels with more advanced models containing a staggering 2048 levels.
  • Tilt Sensitivity - The more advanced models in the Wacom product range feature Digital Pens with tilt sensitivity. similarly with a brush or pencil, holding it at a tilt will change the shape of the media which is in contact with the canvas creating a unique effect. While I said earlier that anything that can be created with a tablet can be recreated with a mouse, this feature seriously puts that in jeopardy and make things increasingly more difficult for the mouse user.

Value

If you are unfamiliar with the graphics tablet market then you may be excused for assuming that Wacom are extremely expensive on account of the information provided above. This is simply not the case and how Wacom approach this matter is to place a definitive scale of products which cater for beginners through to advanced users, while still maintaining their unrivalled expertise.

Support

Being the major player in the market, Wacom have a firm understanding of what is required by their audience. Time after time we are in awe of their innovation of products which at the time, seem perfect. Support comes from Wacom in many forms; from the wide range of software which caters directly for use with Wacom hardware to the easy to use calibration software which arrives with your tablet. Each from my experience, have always been exceptional,

As mentioned above, I am not going to try and tell you why you need to buy a graphics tablet; that decision is something you will have to make on your own based on requirements and Return on Investment (ROI). Hopefully you have already decided that you want to buy a graphics tablet and are simply looking for advice on which one is right for you. If this is the case, then please continue to read on as I provide you with my humble opinion.

Please note: there will be links on this page to buy these products on Amazon. It is not intended to force you in to a purchase; only as an informative resource on where you can find them online

The 4 Best Graphics Tablets

All Wacom, All Fantastic

Model

Wacom Bamboo

Wacom Bamboo Fun

Wacom Intuos5

Wacom Cintiq HD

Image

Guide Price

£45

£145

£250 - £300*

£1500**


*The Wacom Intuos 5 Touch comes in a variety of sizes including S,M,L,XL - This price is based on the Medium model

**The Cintiq comes in 3 different sizes - This price is based on the 22 Inch HD model

Pen Accuracy

0.5mm

0.5mm

0.25mm

0.5mm

Compatibility

PC / MAC

PC / MAC

PC / MAC

PC / MAC

Connection

USB

USB

USB / Wireless

USB / Video

Express Keys

N/A

4

8

16 (Rear Touch Strip)

Touch Sensitive

No

No

Yes

Yes

Pressure Levels

1024

1024

2048

2048

Resolution

1024 LPI

1024 LPI

5080 LPI

1920 x 1080 px 5080 LPI

Bundled Software

Yes (limited)

Yes

Yes

Yes

Tilt Sensitivity

No

No

60 Degree

60 Degree

Data Rate

133 pps

133 pps

200 pps

133 pps


Wacom on Amazon

No pressure and certainly not 2,048 varying levels of pressure...But just in case you do find yourself in the position where you would like to purchase a Wacom graphics tablet, here are a few helpful links to Amazon. Feel free to shop around but I have always found Amazon to be extremely competitive

Wacom Cintiq 22HD 21-Inch Pen Display Tablet, Black (DTK2200)
Wacom Cintiq 22HD 21-Inch Pen Display Tablet, Black (DTK2200)

Possibly the coolest piece of electronic equipment have ever seen. The Wacom CINTIQ range will meet all of your design expectations and provide an excellent platform for your design skills. This product does come at a substantial cost so be warned.

 
Wacom Bamboo Connect Pen Tablet (CTL470)
Wacom Bamboo Connect Pen Tablet (CTL470)

An excellent introduction to graphics tablets and the ideal solution for beginners. Say goodbye to your mouse and hello to intricate design skills and professional results

 
Wacom Intuos5 Touch Medium Pen Tablet (PTH650)
Wacom Intuos5 Touch Medium Pen Tablet (PTH650)

While the Intuos range is still on the slightly more expensive side of the market, for me it is the perfect balance between cost and performance. The extremely sensitive functionality will allow you to take your work to the next level. My weapon of choice and key element to my design business.

 
Wacom Bamboo Capture Pen and Touch Tablet (CTH470)
Wacom Bamboo Capture Pen and Touch Tablet (CTH470)

Cheap and cheerful usually means low quality but not when it comes the Wacom Bamboo Capture. As you will have gethered from the reviews above, Wacom only make quality equipment and this is no exception. Introduce fun and precision in to your work with this great product.

 

Wacom Bamboo

Perfect for Beginners

The Bamboo is the entry level product and foundation of Wacom's tablet family. If you have never used a graphics tablet before and have just decided to upgrade from the mouse, the Wacom Bamboo will feel like a total revolution in the way you interact with your design software.The Wacom Bamboo has pretty much all of the features you would like to find in a solid graphics tablet and at approximately £45 it is an investment that will not disappoint.

The Wacom Bamboo graphics tablet comes complete with access to download ArtRage painting software which will allow you to explore all of the product features and begin your design journey.

Who will benefit from this product?

The Wacom Bamboo is well equipped to carry out all but the most intricate levels digital art and design. Great for sketching, photo modification and general design. In my opinion, the people who will benefit most from this product are those that have never used a graphics tablet before but know that it is the direction they must go. The contrast between a digital pen and mouse is world's apart and you will be instantly amazed by the increased level of control which is introduced. The only worry I would have is that you may quickly begin to want more from your tablet. I remember the first thing I did upon receipt of my Intuos4 was to YouTube digital Art and try to recreate some of the fantastic creation on display. Almost all of the designers were commenting on the need for tilt and increased pressure sensitivity and it made me feel better to know that I had it when I needed it.

Please do not think that I am trying to sway you away from this tablet as it truly is a fantastic product for beginners to learn the basics and master the tablet (it is pretty tricky at first).

For all of the products which Wacom produces, this for me is the reason why everyone else cannot get a grip on the market. If Wacom tablets started at the £100 mark, there would be a huge niche for other manufacturers to pounce upon. The fact of the matter is that the Bamboo will set you back about £40 -£50 and will give you all of the functionality needed to make a start on your career in design.

Wacom Bamboo Fun

Begin to Wonder

The Bamboo Fun is the next step up in the Wacom product range and really starts to make you realise what can be achieved with a graphics tablet. I am not in any way trying to suggest that owning a great tablet will make you a great artist but it certainly does help.

They always say that a good works-man never blames his tools but I can imagine a lot of digital artists out there thinking that there is nothing wrong with the tablet, it's the person holding the pen which is the issue. The Bamboo fun is available in different sizes which can be handy if desk space is limited or if space is not an issue, allows you to work on a larger area. A big improvement on the standard Bamboo is the introduction of Express keys which are built in to the tablet. The buttons can be configured to perform multiple quick function actions, reducing the need to have one hand on the mouse (I use Adobe Photoshop and have become completely literate with the keyboard hot-keys, for those who are not happy using keyboard commands, the express key functions for things such as select, zoom, or move will be a great time saver.

Unlike the standard Bamboo, there is a great selection of bundled software with this tablet including Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter Essentials

Who will benefit from this product?

Everyone is different so it is hard for me to put a definitive label on the Bamboo fun but I think there will be 2 main types of people who will be attracted to this product:

  1. Those that already own the standard Bamboo and feel the need to upgrade.
  2. Those who feel that they are more advanced than the standard Bamboo but cannot stretch or justify the expense of the Intuos range.

In summary, this tablet is great enhancement to the standard Bamboo and makes use of some great new features (express buttons and better bundled software) but I do have some reservations on where it fits in to the product range. On one hand I fail to see how it justifies an extra £100 from the standard Bamboo yet I can see a huge step forward in terms of user friendliness and ergonomics.

Wacom Intuos 5 Touch

The Most Popular Choice among Designers

Please say hello to the Intuos range of Wacom graphics tablets and potentially the only tablet you will ever need. I know I said I would try to be impartial but I just adore this product; I own the Intuos 4 Medium and have nothing but good things to say about it. The good thing about Wacom is that they always seem to provide you with everything you could ever want but are still able to revolutionise a product with every major release.

The Intuos 5 Touch is the follow up release to the hugely successful Intuos 4 and has not failed to bring about huge improvements (hard to believe but they have outdone themselves again) but just what exactly are you getting for an extra £150 on the price tag:

  • Increased pressure sensitivity - with 2,048 levels of pressure the Intuos range makes you truly believe that you are holding a real pencil and drawing on real paper. Excellent for sketching and outlining your work.
  • Tilt Sensitivity - The advanced nib design can detect when you are holding the pen at an angle and create real brush stroke effects. Perfect for paint strokes and shading.
  • Separate pen holder with built-in nib container - There are many different nib types which can be used with your digital pen. There are hard nibs, felt nibs, flex nibs and more; all designed to provide greater feel and texture.
  • Touch Sensitivity - you can place you fingers on the work area as well as the pen to carry out various functions such as undo, redo, zoom and more. I must admit, this feature would be extremely welcome addition to my tablet (maybe soon)
  • Wireless connectivity - cable less technology

The Wacom Intuos 5 Touch can be purchased in 4 different sizes: Small,Medium, Large and Extra Large. The active areas on each of the tablets roughly equate to the following metric dimensions:

  • Small - A6, (157 x 98 mm)
  • Medium- A5, (224 x 140 mm)
  • Large - A4, Pen (325 x 203 mm) Touch (299 x 190 mm)
  • Extra Large - A3, (462 x 304.8 mm)

There is a huge financial implication when selecting the size of your Intuos tablet. The difference in price between the small and extra large version can be upwards of £350 so budget will play a big part in your decision. The only other thing which will have influence on your decision is desk space. The small version is very effective when desk space is limited and the only real difference is the fact that the small has 6 express keys where the other versions have 8. I own the Medium version of the Intuos 4 and feel it is the best option in terms of space and cost, your requirements may differ but be aware that the extra space does come at a significant cost

Who will benefit from this product?

I would just like to point out again that owning this product will not make you a great artist. The Intuos range is intended for the serious and more advanced designer, I am not trying to be disrespectful or condescending to anyone by saying this but it is just how it is. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best product in the entire range but it does come with a heavy price tag. Do you need it if you are just looking to enhance a few photos or create a few sketches, probably not but it would more than do the job. The real value of this product is realised when carrying out intricate design and detail

My advice would be that if you are looking for a graphics tablet and have the money, you should get this tablet straight away otherwise fall back on one of the products mentioned above.

Looking for more information, check out my Wacom Intuos5 Review

Wacom Intuos 5: Official Product Video

Take a quick look at the Intuos5 Touch. This video is an official Wacom release

Wacom Cintiq HD

The Top End of the Market

The Wacom Cintiq is quite possibly the coolest design tool I have ever seen. Essentially, what you have is the combination of the most sophisticated, accurate and sensitive graphics tablet on the market combined with a HD LCD display.

As fantastic as this product is, I have got to draw your attention to the price because for me it is the most important factor. The 22 inch version of this product is going to cost you around £1500 and the 24 inch model, upwards of £1800 meaning that you are either that sure of the Return on Investment due to current income or that you are extremely rich.

In terms of functionality and performance, there is not a great deal of difference between the Cintiq and the Intuos range but the fact that you are performing your artwork on screen, allows for greater control and plain old wow factor.

The reason I have included this product on this Lens is due to the fact that it is the cutting edge in graphic design and I want you to be able to see the best. Yes it is expensive, Yes it is an amazing product but No, I could never justify this purchase for myself.

Who will benefit form this product?

In a word, Everyone! but things are not so simple.

The Wacom Cintiq range is the best product in the graphic design arena and the pinnacle of all tablets. There is no doubt that your capabilities will dramatically improve as you get to grips with this product but an even greater impact will be felt in your bank account. If you have the means to purchase this product then by all means go for it, you will not be disappointed.

Take a quick look at the official product release video from Wacom.

Wacom Cintiq 22 HD

Official product release from Wacom. If I had the money to buy this I would get this tomorrow. Super cool!

Some of My Work

My Digital Artwork
My Digital Artwork

As Mentioned earlier in this Lens. I own a Wacom Intuos 4 Medium.

All of the drawings above have been created on my Wacom tablet. I do not consider myself to be an amazing digital artist but when I put my mind, time and effort in to a project, I usually get some pretty good results.

The images above have all be drawn freehand and have taken anywhere from 2 hours for the Manchester United badge to 8 hours for Rhianna

Just out of Interest

Which of my drawings do you think is the best?

See results

More on Graphics Tablets

If you are looking for more information on Graphics Tablets, head over to my new website where I will be carrying out reviews of various design products and sharing tricks of the trade

Wacom Bamboo Pressure Sensitivity

I have created this video to demonstrate the pressure sensitivity functionality of the Wacom Bamboo. Presure sensitivity is an important feature of any graphics tablet and the 1024 different level on offer in the bamboo is very welcome.

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    • Tim Bader profile image

      Tim Bader 4 years ago from Surrey, UK

      I have a Wacom bamboo, but I'm not an artist

      - I use it for ergonomics, which I have posted about elsewhere, although I tend to use a vertical mouse these days instead...

      I like the pictures!

    • chocochipchip profile image

      chocochipchip 4 years ago

      Hey, great lens! I don't know much about graphics but really want to figure it out!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 4 years ago from Diamondhead

      Great like your reviews

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Brilliant reviews. Sure to be of help for the folks looking for info on the subject!

    • Paul Hill84 profile image
      Author

      Paul Hill84 4 years ago

      @EliasZanetti LM: That's great, they are so much fun...bordering addictive :)

    • EliasZanetti LM profile image

      EliasZanetti LM 4 years ago

      I have been thinking about getting a tablet for awhile. Reading your lens has been very helpful! Thanks for posting this,, Great lens!

    • Paul Hill84 profile image
      Author

      Paul Hill84 4 years ago

      @chas65: Thanks for the comments :)

    • wanda-skinner profile image

      wanda-skinner 4 years ago

      Hi Paul,

      I'm not a graphics designer either, but I liked what I saw. You have a lot of information there. Wish I was creative enough to do something like that

    • chas65 profile image

      chas65 4 years ago

      Not being a graphics person, I was not familiar with this market, but it was educational and enjoyed seeing your work.

    • Paul Hill84 profile image
      Author

      Paul Hill84 4 years ago

      @tomoxby: Thanks, much appreciated...they are nothing special compared to some of the work out there. Type speed painting in to YT and take look at some masters at work. Simply amazing!

    • Paul Hill84 profile image
      Author

      Paul Hill84 4 years ago

      @Thamisgith: The Bamboo is a great product! glad he is enjoying it

    • profile image

      tomoxby 4 years ago

      I love the great graphics you have been able to create with this tablet.

    • profile image

      Thamisgith 4 years ago

      My son has a Wacom Bamboo tablet. It didn't cost much and he absolutely loves it.